Animal Track Identification

Identifying Animal Footprints and Paw Prints

December 9, 2019
Animal Tracks Footprints in the Snow
Val_Iva/Shutterstock

You don’t have to be in the jungle or deep forest to be an animal tracker. Animal footprints are often as close as your backyard or garden. Take a look at these animal track pictures—showing footprints in both the snow and in mud.

How to Track Animals and Identify Animal Tracks

Tracking is something that you learn by doing. Get out there and look! Here are a few tips:

  • Animal tracks are easiest to find in mud, soft garden soil, sand, and snow.
  • Study the ground closely. Get down on your hands and knees. Note the size of the track and whether it shows claw marks. You may wish to make a sketch.
  • Track early in the morning or late in the day when shadows make prints easier to see.
  • Watch for animal droppings called scat. The scat will also help you track the animal. If it’s dry all the way through, the tracks may have been left a while ago. Scat can also tell you if you’re tracking a vegetarian or a meat eater.
  • If you lose the trail, search in a circle around the track until you pick up the trail again.
  • The most important tip of all: don’t get lost!

Animal Track Pictures in the Winter Snow

If you live in a snowy area, this is probably the easiest way to see and identify tracks. Take a look at these common animal tracks.

animal-tracks-winter.jpg

Animal Track Pictures in the Mud

Here are the same animal tracks as they might look in a muddy garden or backyard!

animal tracks

We love all these animals, but if these are destroying your garden, here are simple ways to deter common critters:
 deermicemolesrabbitsraccoonsskunkssquirrelsvoles, and woodchucks or groundhogs

Have you seen any animal tracks in your backyard lately? Tell us about it below!

Reader Comments

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Unknown footprints on my shed

I see these footprints on my shed every time it snows but don’t know what type of animal it is. It looks like hoofs?

Animal poop

I keep finding huge piles of animal poop on my deck next to house. The pile I found this morning I had to use snow shovel to clean it up. It is very black and looks like it’s loaded with cherries.

identifying scat

In the winter, berry-eating birds will litter area with black droppings. They are black from the berries. If the poop is the size of dog poop, then it could be raccoons. They also eat a lot of berries and their poop is black-ish in color. 

Animal tracks.

I have A deer freeway running through my 6.5 acre property! Trails all over leading to A thick stand of Norway pine's where they bed down.
I also see skunk, fox, coy dog, squirrel, bear and other tracks on my land.
I no longer hunt as I am too old so I suspect that they feel safe on my little plot!

Raccoon?

3-4 inch tracks. Looks like 4, maybe 5 toes in a hopping pattern. Unsure but definitely mammal. Image link below!
Good site to catalog your observations is inaturalist.org.
inaturalist.org/observations/36473946

Animal Tracks

Asking people to guess what animal left a track using a picture isn't helpful unless there is scale. Never take a photo of a track without putting something down to show scale...like a quarter or a pencil/pen. You can also make a cast of a track using Plaster of Paris. After it's dry, lift it carefully. Plan ahead if you want to make the positive of the track. Put a frame of cardboard around the track to make sure your Plaster of Paris mold has straight edges. Remove the plaster mold frame after the track is completely dry. Wrap and tape your Plaster of Paris track (obviously the track mold is facing up now) carefully and tightly with cardboard/aluminum foil and spray the plaster track with cooking spray or release spray. Fill the container with hot wax. After it sets up and is cool, carefully separate the plaster track from the wax track. Careful if there are claws because they make break off in the wax and you'll have to carefully dig the plaster out.

Strange track found in a Colorado

I was out rock hunting on the river bank of the Rio Grande with my sister and boyfriend. They were fly fishing while I was looking around and I came across a very strange track in the mud. It kind of freaks me out. Where can I submit a photo?

Animal track ID

Hi, there! You can submit a photo of the tracks to AlmanacEditors@Yankeepub.com, and we can try to identify it for you or at least narrow down the possibilities. Thanks!

trying to identify animal foot prints.

Please help me to identify rather large animal prints found in the sand in our back yard. long stride, 3 toes and a pad seemed larger than a racoon.

Grey Wolf

You might want to check those prints. Those don't look anything like a wolf print. I mean, not even remotely close. Those look to be the prints of some small varmint.

Correct on the wolf prints... they are wrong

The wolf prints listed above are not wolf prints. Wolf basically look like big dog.

unknown foot prints in my house help me to identify the animal

i found unknown foot prints in my house this animal has 5 fingers 3 in front and 2 behind. i am very afraid of from this because the print was very heavy approximately 1 inch behind on earth, i have a picture of foot print how can i show it to you?

Animal track in snow

Straight line, some prints 3-feet apart, each as big as human boot
Looks like three-claw, but center one is shortest . I have pictures

Strange animal prints in snow

I found the weirdes animal prints in the snow this morning and would like to know what kind of animal where those. I have two pictures.

what are these???

Tracks in snow about 1 1/2 feet apart: in front, 2 large ovals, with 2 smaller ovals behind, one behind the other. I couldn't see any claws, but I was looking down from my window, one story down, in snow that was beginning to melt. Any ideas???

Tracks in my yard show 3 long claws about 4” long

Do you know what they are?

Turkey

Most animals have four or five toes. It’s generally birds that have 3 claws. Turkeys have three claws measuring 4 inches long.

Tracks..

After we started seeing a variety of tracks at our cabin, we put out trail cameras. The cameras have captured raccoons, deer, turkey, feral cats, skunk and opossum. They have also captured bobcats, bears, hogs, cougars and one coyote.
Rain can wash out tracks, the ground can be hard or frozen; if you really want to know what is there, buy a trail camera.
I have 2 warnings; the cameras are addictive and you might not enjoy seeing what is there at night.

trail camera

The Editors's picture

Wow—what wonders you see! You share your environment with quite a menagerie! Watching the night activity may be, as you say, not so enjoyable; our thought ran more along the lines of encountering it, if you (anyone) venture outside after dark!

Stinky Skunks

My Mother-in-law said she once got sprayed by a skunk and they had to bury the dress she was wearing cause it wouldn't come clean! I myself have seeing a live skunk on my bucket list, also a porcupine.

Paw prints in back yard

I've been trying to figure out what paw prints we had in the snow in our back yard- they were about the size of my hand (6-7 inches, which is why I noticed them- they were bigger than anything I'd seen before), with a round-ish base and 4 oval toes, evenly spread. They also stopped at the fence, so I assume whatever it was jumped over (it would have been too big to go under, I'm guessing). We live about an hour north of Toronto, and the area is pretty green (greenest in Ontario award). The closest thing I've seen online has been a wolf print, but there were no nail marks in the snow...

What is this?

We found a paw print measuring 5 inches across at the side of our house. Where can I get a better opinion as to what this thing is? We have free range fowl. Something pulled a huge chicken through the fence, leaving blood and feathers. That happened on the side of our yard where we have a donkey and a mule. I thought donkeys deterred small game.

animal track ID

The Editors's picture

We’re sorry that you are having trouble with an animal getting to your chickens! What that predator is depends on where you live. The next time you see a print, check to see how many toes are showing, if there are claw impressions [cat family, for example, usually do not have their claws out unless the terrain is slippery; dog family (coyote, fox, etc) often show claw marks], and the overall vertical and horizontal measurements. If there is more than one print, see if you can tell how the animal traveled–if the paws were one after the other, or sort of staggered, etc. Some animals sometimes overlap a hind foot on a front foot print; occasionally, this can be mistaken for a huge single paw print instead of 2 prints one on top of the other. If the print was truly a single print, and was 5 inches across on not-too-soft ground (not mud or snow, which might exaggerate the measurements), and the animal was the one that was interested in your chickens, then it might possibly be a bear, whose adult paw prints can be anywhere between 3.5 to 8 or more inches, depending on species. However, usually bears would be more destructive–just plowing through a fence rather than pulling something through it. Bears do sometimes go after chickens, or more often, chicken feed. Make sure that any chicken feed is covered so as to discourage them and other animals. Dogs, cats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, fishers, etc. may go after chickens, but a 5-inch paw print is too large for those animals – except perhaps a large breed of domestic dog, which can, depending on the breed and individual, have a paw print of up to about 4.75 inches (in certain substrates, especially if a paw might sink into it, the print might appear larger). If the chicken snatching is unrelated to the paw print, it might be a hawk, owl, or other bird of prey. Sometimes they sit on a fence and keep an eye out for meals, but their prints are much different, and not large. Hope this helps!

track Id

I basically live in a cornfield in Nebraska and I keep ending up with cats missing and they found these tracks and I was hoping to get help besides gentrifying them please thank you kindly

Wonder whose footprint is this?

I found these footprints on a beach...i worried it is crocodile's..

what made the track shown in the picture

I am wondering what animal made the picture shown at the beginning of the webpage. I am guessing it's just a regular dog? There is curiously no caption or other information on this.

Dog Tracks

Yes, they are dog tracks!

how do I send a pic of some tracks?

How do I send a pic of some tracks for ID?

pics

I’m afraid we no longer offer photo uploads to our Web site. We hope, however, the tracks displayed point our readers in the right direction.

I live in Kentucky, and found

I live in Kentucky, and found huge prints in my barn, two days prior our neighbor witnessed a mountain lion trying to take down a cow. I thought there weren't mountain lions in KY?

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